Glasgow Rangers vs Ayr U12's. Notes and Obs pdf_Page_1_Image_0001

By Jeff Tipping

(Currently Technical Director of Palm Beach Soccer Academy in Florida.  Former long-time Director of Education and Coaching Development for the NSCAA)

The staff of the Glasgow Rangers International Development Office invited me to tour Rangers Stadium and visit the Academy training ground to watch the teams of their youth academy. A number of the Glasgow Rangers youth academy staff worked for the Scottish FA at the time I was developing American educational coaching programming in the early ’90′s and I have stayed in touch with them to one degree or another. The Scots, led by coaching education director Andy Roxburgh at that time, had a superb coaching education program in place, certifying many of the Scottish coaches who arenowcoaching in high positions in the English Premier League and the rest of the world.

The Scottish system, impressive both for its content and progressive sequencing, provided the structure for much of the coaching education programming I introduced into the USA. The Scottish FA are still renowned for developing superb coach education programs to this very day.

The train ride from Lancashire to Glasgow is magical, threading through the Lake District, a mountainous area which inspired the work of William Wordsworth and the Victorian poets. The late autumn frost sparkled on the hillsides and the early morning mists were just lifting from the valleys as our train meandered from one small English or Scottish village to another. Being a half Scot myself (…well maybe a third) it is not difficult to get lost in nostalgia when coming home to the beauties of the English and Scottish countryside.

Arriving in Glasgow on Friday at noon we were hosted to a luncheon in the luxurious Argyle Suite overlooking the playing field of the famous Ibrox Stadium. Over the years I have visited many big soccer clubs and have always been impressed with the friendliness and courtesy of the players and staff. It seems as though the big clubs instill and insist on good manners and etiquette from their players and staff. The amount of time staff members of professional clubs are willing to spend with visitors is quite remarkable and from PSV Eindhoven to FC Copenhagen to Glasgow Rangers the same high level of genuine hospitality and interest towards their guests is always impressive. I suspect that respect for the world’s global game and to those who participate in it as at the heart of this ethos.

A fascinating and historical tour of the 51,000 seat Ibrox Stadium and trophy room followed lunch. As one of the oldest and most successful clubs in professional soccer, Rangers have an enormous museum room filled with cups, shields and mementos from all over the world.

Murray Park

Next day, we visited Murray Park, Rangers training ground, to observe the U11′s playing against Ayr United U12′s. Murray Park is set out in the countryside where privacy is much easier to secure than in Glasgow. Professional teams

always have concerns about opponents spying on players, infiltrating the staff or compromising tactical game preparations and arrangements always have to be made to get through security. The facility is gated but once through you are greeted by acres of pristine natural grass fields along with an artificial turf field. The main building contains a weight and calisthenic rooms, a laundry room, classrooms and youth academy office space along with a large indoor playing facility. Both the senior and junior teams train at Murray Park but on this weekend many of the youth games had to be cancelled due to extremely heavy frost. Fortunately, the U11 game was only a friendly and had been moved inside.

In the winter the Rangers academy teams play a series of friendlies against the youth academies of various professional clubs. Ayr is 1 hour from Glasgow, a seaside resort town notable for having palm trees due to its proximity to the gulfstream which sweeps around the Scottish southwest coast. The beautiful county of Ayrshire is home to several British Open Championship golf courses including Prestwick Golf Course host to the first Open Championship in 1860.

Although Ayr is a small town, Ayr United are in the Scottish first division, two divisions above Rangers. In 2011 – 2012 Rangers went into Administration – another word for declaring “near bankruptcy” – and the Scottish League Chairman’s Committee relegated them to the Third Division. Rangers lost a number of their top senior team players at this time. The Glasgow club has, since, been bought out by a wealthy business syndicate and the future looks bright but they are not allowed to buy any players until September 2013 and have come to rely, more than ever, on their youth academy to produce talent. Fortunately little has changed at the youth level and the club is still one of the most powerful clubs in Europe with an awesome reputation, facilities, support staff and fan following. As I was to find out they are, also, producing some amazing young talent.

The indoor artificial field surface proved to be an outstanding facility.
The ceiling was high enough to allow for punted balls from goalkeepers and the field dimensions were, approximately 40 yards wide by 70 long. The goals were 7 yards wide x 7 feet high. A Scottish FA referee worked the center, operating without assistants, and FIFA rules applied although the refereeing of balls in and out of play was not strictly enforced. I noticed something similar with Everton’s Academy the previous week, when balls were clearly over the line by 4 or 5 inches, the referee played on and nobody objected. For this game the teams did not play the offside law.

7 v 7 is the Scottish FA mandate for teams under the age of 13. The Rangers U11′s and U12′s split into two even teams and arrangements were made to play two distinct games until the turn of the year when the U12′s move to 11 v 11 soccer. Ayr brought one large squad and used a number of their better players in both games. The Rangers teams are so strong that no Rangers player from the first game played in the second game. Normally the Rangers U12′s play across half a field when playing outdoors – both teams playing at the same time. This is not possible indoors so the teams played back to back. This age group trains three times a week and four times on a bi weekly basis.

“Mesmerizing.”

Not quite sure how to describe what we saw inside the indoor complex other than to echo the words of Sir Alex Ferguson when Barcelona dismantled his Manchester United team in the 2011 UEFA Championship game – he called Barcelona’s display “mesmerizing” – and what we were treated to in both games evoked a somewhat similar reaction.

From, astonishingly, powerful shooting to intricate but silky passing patterns, body swerves and quality and effortless ball control both of the Rangers teams displayed everything you could ask for in a youth soccer team. Playing a 1-2-3-1 formation they moved from a condensed and compact defending block to a wide but disciplined attacking shape in which the players seemed to know everything about exploiting the “Principles of The Game.” Players had several passing options upon receiving the ball as team mates moved intelligently and quickly to support the first attacker. The wide players got to the goal line time and time again and pulled the ball back to runners entering the penalty box. Ayr had some fine players and played some good soccer but, despite being, significantly, bigger than the Rangers players they simply could not match the power and speed of their hosts and both games ended with a very lob sided score line of 8 or 9 to nothing. I think I rubbed my eyes several times just to make sure I was not dreaming. After all, these players were 10 and 11 years of age.

11 FACTORS THAT MADE THE DIFFERENCE

  1. Talking. Rangers players were constantly talking and giving advice to each other.
  2. Bodywork. Although much smaller the Rangers players initiated much of the body contact and knew how to use their body to win the ball, shield the ball and master the opponent in 1 v 1 challenges.
  3. Awareness. My notes indicate that the players were constantly scanning the field and making early decisions all the time.
  4. Checking Movements. Rangers players made fake checking movements when receiving the ball under pressure – thus making the opponents freeze or keep them unbalanced e.g. lunge towards the ball with the upper body and then allow the ball to run so it was controlled with the back foot.
  5. Deception. Looking in a direction and passing elsewhere, using arm and upper body movement to feign a pass in one direction and passing in another, moving in one direction and passing in another were moves the players used all the time.
  6. Power shooting. Players shot the ball with, unstoppable, velocity.
  7. Anticipation. Players seemed to know, exactly, where a ricocheted and spinning ball was going to land.
  8. Receiving the ball. Almost zero mistakes in receiving the ball – even when passed with significant pace. Almost always some kind of a move before the ball is received.
  9. Composure. Players dribbled the ball even when under heavy pressure from opponent. Excellent at shielding.
  10. Lefties. 8 lefties in a squad of, about, 18 players. (Discussion point -Lefties seem to be more gifted than righties.)
  11. Passing. Early passes with correct pace, accuracy and spin. Bending and shaping passes in response to team mate and opposition movement.

Just as the Rangers second game drew to its conclusion the central midfielder rainbowed the ball over the head of an Ayr player, controlled it on the other side of the player and drove a faded ball into the space behind the, recovering, Ayr right winger and into the advantage space of the Rangers wide left player who ran onto the ball, took one touch for control and smashed it past the goalkeeper and against the cross bar. Referee blew the final whistle signaling the end of a game…a game I, really, did not want to end. It is quite possible that everybody could have gone home and the lights were turned out before I came out of my open mouthed trance!

Notes and Observations

  • From the wallpaper in the locker room and stadium walls to the cups, plates and saucers in the restaurants, to the parking signs, everything has the Glasgow Rangers emblem on it. There was never any doubt who the hosts were.
  • Rangers have devised an intricate system of van pickups so the parents do not have to drive the players to practice during the week. The young players are picked up and dropped off by the Rangers staff who double up as bus drivers on occasion. When games are played on weekends the parents often accompany their sons as they wish to see them play. The parents were gathered on the side of the field away from the team benches and were notable for being absolutely silent except for muted applause when a goal was scored.
  • Rangers staff acknowledged the prowess of their U11′s but the concerns they have for players is when they reached the 14 and 15 age levels. This is, classically, the age when good players become mired in the many distractions of modern day living. One of the staff coaches confessed that he would like to put the U15 players in a highland castle for 3 or 4 years where no one could get to them and they were shielded from the real world. Apparently, like any professional team, Rangers have had talented players at 12 who are not even on the radar screen at 17/18.
  • Rangers youth policy is to not allow players to play high school soccer.
  • Each team has a weekly list of duties and responsibilities for the young players. Players are assigned responsibilities for that week which are displayed on the notice board;
  • Like many professional youth academies the staff are a mixture of youth and experience. Alongside the numerous junior staff who still play or who have recently retired from playing are Academy Director, Jimmy Sinclair, and assistant Director Tommy Wilson. Both of these highly qualified individuals are former Scottish FA instructors and professional players. Along with Wilson and other members of staff, Sinclair has devised a player and team training curriculum which the staff must closely follow and lies at the heart of Rangers developmental success. Although players come to the Academy with high levels of talent, it is quite clear that drill work is strictly enforced and specific team training exercises are incorporated into the practice routines.
  • Good players are the raw material of a good developmental program. The teaching program is, of course, supplemented by a team of 16 scouts whose job is to scour the Scottish youth leagues for potential talent for the future. Despite all of their financial problems players are still drawn to the mystique of playing for The Rangers.

Reflection and admiration for the Rangers coaching staff filled my mind on the trip back to Lancashire. I am afraid I completely neglected the scenery as we travelled back through the Lake District. All I could think about was the mesmerizing skill of the Rangers U11 teams and could we, possibly, replicate that kind of player confidence and ability in our club in Palm Beach and in other American clubs all around the USA. We cannot transfer everything they do at the Rangers Academy to the USA…they live in a very different world than we do…but we make these trips to see what we CAN transfer and take what we can use and apply it to our clubs. When we travel and study other soccer cultures we do the players and members of our own clubs a significant service…and having a vision and plan for the future and for player, team, coach and club development is where it all starts. Thanks to the staff and players of Glasgow Rangers Football Club for a, truly, unforgettable weekend.

Jeff Tipping. Technical Director – Palm Beach Soccer Academy, Palm Beach, Florida. 


Glasgow Rangers vs Ayr U12's. Notes and Obs pdf_Page_1_Image_0001

By Jeff Tipping

(Currently Technical Director of Palm Beach Soccer Academy in Florida.  Former long-time Director of Education and Coaching Development for the NSCAA)

The staff of the Glasgow Rangers International Development Office invited me to tour Rangers Stadium and visit the Academy training ground to watch the teams of their youth academy. A number of the Glasgow Rangers youth academy staff worked for the Scottish FA at the time I was developing American educational coaching programming in the early ’90′s and I have stayed in touch with them to one degree or another. The Scots, led by coaching education director Andy Roxburgh at that time, had a superb coaching education program in place, certifying many of the Scottish coaches who arenowcoaching in high positions in the English Premier League and the rest of the world.

The Scottish system, impressive both for its content and progressive sequencing, provided the structure for much of the coaching education programming I introduced into the USA. The Scottish FA are still renowned for developing superb coach education programs to this very day.

The train ride from Lancashire to Glasgow is magical, threading through the Lake District, a mountainous area which inspired the work of William Wordsworth and the Victorian poets. The late autumn frost sparkled on the hillsides and the early morning mists were just lifting from the valleys as our train meandered from one small English or Scottish village to another. Being a half Scot myself (…well maybe a third) it is not difficult to get lost in nostalgia when coming home to the beauties of the English and Scottish countryside.

Arriving in Glasgow on Friday at noon we were hosted to a luncheon in the luxurious Argyle Suite overlooking the playing field of the famous Ibrox Stadium. Over the years I have visited many big soccer clubs and have always been impressed with the friendliness and courtesy of the players and staff. It seems as though the big clubs instill and insist on good manners and etiquette from their players and staff. The amount of time staff members of professional clubs are willing to spend with visitors is quite remarkable and from PSV Eindhoven to FC Copenhagen to Glasgow Rangers the same high level of genuine hospitality and interest towards their guests is always impressive. I suspect that respect for the world’s global game and to those who participate in it as at the heart of this ethos.

A fascinating and historical tour of the 51,000 seat Ibrox Stadium and trophy room followed lunch. As one of the oldest and most successful clubs in professional soccer, Rangers have an enormous museum room filled with cups, shields and mementos from all over the world.

Murray Park

Next day, we visited Murray Park, Rangers training ground, to observe the U11′s playing against Ayr United U12′s. Murray Park is set out in the countryside where privacy is much easier to secure than in Glasgow. Professional teams

always have concerns about opponents spying on players, infiltrating the staff or compromising tactical game preparations and arrangements always have to be made to get through security. The facility is gated but once through you are greeted by acres of pristine natural grass fields along with an artificial turf field. The main building contains a weight and calisthenic rooms, a laundry room, classrooms and youth academy office space along with a large indoor playing facility. Both the senior and junior teams train at Murray Park but on this weekend many of the youth games had to be cancelled due to extremely heavy frost. Fortunately, the U11 game was only a friendly and had been moved inside.

In the winter the Rangers academy teams play a series of friendlies against the youth academies of various professional clubs. Ayr is 1 hour from Glasgow, a seaside resort town notable for having palm trees due to its proximity to the gulfstream which sweeps around the Scottish southwest coast. The beautiful county of Ayrshire is home to several British Open Championship golf courses including Prestwick Golf Course host to the first Open Championship in 1860.

Although Ayr is a small town, Ayr United are in the Scottish first division, two divisions above Rangers. In 2011 – 2012 Rangers went into Administration – another word for declaring “near bankruptcy” – and the Scottish League Chairman’s Committee relegated them to the Third Division. Rangers lost a number of their top senior team players at this time. The Glasgow club has, since, been bought out by a wealthy business syndicate and the future looks bright but they are not allowed to buy any players until September 2013 and have come to rely, more than ever, on their youth academy to produce talent. Fortunately little has changed at the youth level and the club is still one of the most powerful clubs in Europe with an awesome reputation, facilities, support staff and fan following. As I was to find out they are, also, producing some amazing young talent.

The indoor artificial field surface proved to be an outstanding facility.
The ceiling was high enough to allow for punted balls from goalkeepers and the field dimensions were, approximately 40 yards wide by 70 long. The goals were 7 yards wide x 7 feet high. A Scottish FA referee worked the center, operating without assistants, and FIFA rules applied although the refereeing of balls in and out of play was not strictly enforced. I noticed something similar with Everton’s Academy the previous week, when balls were clearly over the line by 4 or 5 inches, the referee played on and nobody objected. For this game the teams did not play the offside law.

7 v 7 is the Scottish FA mandate for teams under the age of 13. The Rangers U11′s and U12′s split into two even teams and arrangements were made to play two distinct games until the turn of the year when the U12′s move to 11 v 11 soccer. Ayr brought one large squad and used a number of their better players in both games. The Rangers teams are so strong that no Rangers player from the first game played in the second game. Normally the Rangers U12′s play across half a field when playing outdoors – both teams playing at the same time. This is not possible indoors so the teams played back to back. This age group trains three times a week and four times on a bi weekly basis.

“Mesmerizing.”

Not quite sure how to describe what we saw inside the indoor complex other than to echo the words of Sir Alex Ferguson when Barcelona dismantled his Manchester United team in the 2011 UEFA Championship game – he called Barcelona’s display “mesmerizing” – and what we were treated to in both games evoked a somewhat similar reaction.

From, astonishingly, powerful shooting to intricate but silky passing patterns, body swerves and quality and effortless ball control both of the Rangers teams displayed everything you could ask for in a youth soccer team. Playing a 1-2-3-1 formation they moved from a condensed and compact defending block to a wide but disciplined attacking shape in which the players seemed to know everything about exploiting the “Principles of The Game.” Players had several passing options upon receiving the ball as team mates moved intelligently and quickly to support the first attacker. The wide players got to the goal line time and time again and pulled the ball back to runners entering the penalty box. Ayr had some fine players and played some good soccer but, despite being, significantly, bigger than the Rangers players they simply could not match the power and speed of their hosts and both games ended with a very lob sided score line of 8 or 9 to nothing. I think I rubbed my eyes several times just to make sure I was not dreaming. After all, these players were 10 and 11 years of age.

11 FACTORS THAT MADE THE DIFFERENCE

  1. Talking. Rangers players were constantly talking and giving advice to each other.
  2. Bodywork. Although much smaller the Rangers players initiated much of the body contact and knew how to use their body to win the ball, shield the ball and master the opponent in 1 v 1 challenges.
  3. Awareness. My notes indicate that the players were constantly scanning the field and making early decisions all the time.
  4. Checking Movements. Rangers players made fake checking movements when receiving the ball under pressure – thus making the opponents freeze or keep them unbalanced e.g. lunge towards the ball with the upper body and then allow the ball to run so it was controlled with the back foot.
  5. Deception. Looking in a direction and passing elsewhere, using arm and upper body movement to feign a pass in one direction and passing in another, moving in one direction and passing in another were moves the players used all the time.
  6. Power shooting. Players shot the ball with, unstoppable, velocity.
  7. Anticipation. Players seemed to know, exactly, where a ricocheted and spinning ball was going to land.
  8. Receiving the ball. Almost zero mistakes in receiving the ball – even when passed with significant pace. Almost always some kind of a move before the ball is received.
  9. Composure. Players dribbled the ball even when under heavy pressure from opponent. Excellent at shielding.
  10. Lefties. 8 lefties in a squad of, about, 18 players. (Discussion point -Lefties seem to be more gifted than righties.)
  11. Passing. Early passes with correct pace, accuracy and spin. Bending and shaping passes in response to team mate and opposition movement.

Just as the Rangers second game drew to its conclusion the central midfielder rainbowed the ball over the head of an Ayr player, controlled it on the other side of the player and drove a faded ball into the space behind the, recovering, Ayr right winger and into the advantage space of the Rangers wide left player who ran onto the ball, took one touch for control and smashed it past the goalkeeper and against the cross bar. Referee blew the final whistle signaling the end of a game…a game I, really, did not want to end. It is quite possible that everybody could have gone home and the lights were turned out before I came out of my open mouthed trance!

Notes and Observations

  • From the wallpaper in the locker room and stadium walls to the cups, plates and saucers in the restaurants, to the parking signs, everything has the Glasgow Rangers emblem on it. There was never any doubt who the hosts were.
  • Rangers have devised an intricate system of van pickups so the parents do not have to drive the players to practice during the week. The young players are picked up and dropped off by the Rangers staff who double up as bus drivers on occasion. When games are played on weekends the parents often accompany their sons as they wish to see them play. The parents were gathered on the side of the field away from the team benches and were notable for being absolutely silent except for muted applause when a goal was scored.
  • Rangers staff acknowledged the prowess of their U11′s but the concerns they have for players is when they reached the 14 and 15 age levels. This is, classically, the age when good players become mired in the many distractions of modern day living. One of the staff coaches confessed that he would like to put the U15 players in a highland castle for 3 or 4 years where no one could get to them and they were shielded from the real world. Apparently, like any professional team, Rangers have had talented players at 12 who are not even on the radar screen at 17/18.
  • Rangers youth policy is to not allow players to play high school soccer.
  • Each team has a weekly list of duties and responsibilities for the young players. Players are assigned responsibilities for that week which are displayed on the notice board;
  • Like many professional youth academies the staff are a mixture of youth and experience. Alongside the numerous junior staff who still play or who have recently retired from playing are Academy Director, Jimmy Sinclair, and assistant Director Tommy Wilson. Both of these highly qualified individuals are former Scottish FA instructors and professional players. Along with Wilson and other members of staff, Sinclair has devised a player and team training curriculum which the staff must closely follow and lies at the heart of Rangers developmental success. Although players come to the Academy with high levels of talent, it is quite clear that drill work is strictly enforced and specific team training exercises are incorporated into the practice routines.
  • Good players are the raw material of a good developmental program. The teaching program is, of course, supplemented by a team of 16 scouts whose job is to scour the Scottish youth leagues for potential talent for the future. Despite all of their financial problems players are still drawn to the mystique of playing for The Rangers.

Reflection and admiration for the Rangers coaching staff filled my mind on the trip back to Lancashire. I am afraid I completely neglected the scenery as we travelled back through the Lake District. All I could think about was the mesmerizing skill of the Rangers U11 teams and could we, possibly, replicate that kind of player confidence and ability in our club in Palm Beach and in other American clubs all around the USA. We cannot transfer everything they do at the Rangers Academy to the USA…they live in a very different world than we do…but we make these trips to see what we CAN transfer and take what we can use and apply it to our clubs. When we travel and study other soccer cultures we do the players and members of our own clubs a significant service…and having a vision and plan for the future and for player, team, coach and club development is where it all starts. Thanks to the staff and players of Glasgow Rangers Football Club for a, truly, unforgettable weekend.

Jeff Tipping. Technical Director – Palm Beach Soccer Academy, Palm Beach, Florida. 

Tagged with →  
Share →

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>